The Challenges of Managing Remote Teams Across Different Time Zones
6 min read

The Challenges of Managing Remote Teams Across Different Time Zones

Managing remote teams across different time zones can be challenging. But here's the absolute manager's guide to better manage a distributed team to foster efficiency.
managing a remote team requires different management techniques than in-office management

Remote work has become more popular than ever in the modern world as knowledge workers demand flexibility and autonomy in their career trajectories.

Top Tips To Manage a Distributed Team

  • Accept the fact that managing a remote team requires a different approach than in-office management.
  • Start each conversation with a clear goal in mind.
  • A central communication hub makes it easier to foster relationship, share general work guidelines, ask for help, etc.
  • Utilize async communication to nurture productivity.
  • Start by hiring remote employees with a small time zone difference so that everyone in a distributed can get used to the change.

It also has the added benefit of creating a high performing remote team when they’re not chained to a desk all day long, and as a result, we’re seeing remote workforces increase at an incredible rate.

Manager’s Guide Managing a Team of Remote Employees

Remote work isn’t just an option for small companies either, fortune 500 companies like Amazon, Dell, and Oracle are all making it standard practice across their teams.

The technology available to us now makes it possible for people to work remotely at any time of day, with little need for constant interaction.

Just like the benefits of remote work, working as part of a globally distributed team can present its own set of challenges as well. Especially when we take into account the time zones of different team members and the inherent distractions of remote work.

To counter this, managers need to develop a clear plan for working with remote team members across different time zones.

Managing a Distributed Remote Team

managers should utilize async processes when managing a distributed team
Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash

The first step to managing a distributed team is to accept that it’s different to manage a remote team compared to a team that’s all in the same office space.

Managers will need to find ways to account for these differences and find alternative solutions for them.

While these remote workers will certainly be, well, working remotely, managers need to make sure that they're held accountable in the same way as team members in an office, but by utilizing asynchronous processes.

That means managers should find ways to track remote employees' performance and give them constructive criticism when they need it.

Employers also want to make sure the team members are using the best collaboration tools to facilitate their work and give them opportunities to collaborate and learn from one another.

Communicating With Remote Team Members

communication is key when managing a remote team
Photo by Mati Flo on Unsplash

While the details of communications will depend on the type of work and the particular team members the employers hired, there are a few broad guidelines that apply to almost every communication method.

First, make sure remote employees and employers are always starting communications with a clear goal in mind. Don't shoot messages into the void and hope for the best.

Make sure each communication has a clear goal, addressing the person to communicate with in a way that’ll get the best response.

Second, make sure communications are initiated on time. When working in an office, employees are always clocking in at the same time, so everyone has a built-in expectation for when they might respond to something.

Such expectations aren't present in remote work, so make sure to follow best practices for when communication should be initiated.

Establish a Central Communication Hub

managing remote teams with a central communication hub helps to make communication easier
Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

One of the biggest problems with managing remote teams is that managers don’t necessarily have the same visual cues that they would with a co-located team.

There's no break room where people are always chatting and getting to know each other or a common area where people can gather and work together.

This can make it harder to foster relationships among remote team members and create a feeling of community and solidarity.

Our best bet for combating this is to establish a single communication hub for a distributed team.

Choose a communication method that works for everyone, whether it’s Slack, Zoom, or a combination of both.

The communication hub can be used for everything from general communication to project management, so it’ll help managers establish a more centralized hub of communication and collaboration.

How Much Overlap Is Required To Run Your Existing Working Processes?

adapting asynchronous work helps to manage remote teams effectively and efficiently
Photo by Windows on Unsplash

On one extreme, you can force everyone to work in the same time zone (even if they live in different time zones).

Such a practice mimics going to the office, and it's the easiest decision for managers who are new to remote work.

However, the caveat here is it limits their remote team's ability to reap the most benefits of working remotely.

On the other extreme, managers can have a fully global and decentralized team in any time zones with team members who don't overlap at all.

This requires a lot of adaptation to asynchronous work. Although tempting, your team might need to go through a few steps before being ready for that.

These steps include:

  • Defining a clear and concise work plan
  • Establishing communication and collaboration protocols between team members in different time zones
  • Embracing asynchronous communication
  • Setting expectations and procedures for handling asynchronous communication

Async Communication in Remote Work

async work helps to increase productivity within a remote team
Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash

Asynchronous communication is a way of working that is different from traditional work. Instead of having a set schedule for employees to follow, it allows for the team to work on a schedule that best fits them.

One of the most important aspects of leading a remote team is understanding how to properly communicate with team members in different time zones.

The key to success lies in utilizing asynchronous communication, which is defined as a communication method where each individual communicates independently of the other and there is no expectation of immediate response.

By using async communication, team members can avoid the frustration that can come with trying to coordinate a meeting time that works for everyone.

Additionally, it allows for more flexible work hours which can be beneficial for team members in different time zones.

The Best Strategy to Work With Remote Teams Across Different Time Zones

start by hiring remote employees with a small time zone difference for everyone to gradually get used to the change
Photo by Milad Fakurian on Unsplash

When hiring remote employees, employers should seek talent within a 2-3 hour time zone difference.

With such a small time zone difference, managers can experiment and work out best practices for managing remote teams without doing much damage to the organization.

This is also the opportunity for managers to experiment with different collaboration tools to decide what works and what doesn't.

Gradually, when managers and current remote teams become used to working remotely, employers can increase this to a 5-6 hour time zone difference.

This way, the new hires can be easily brought into the remote system of the organization without having to compromise time on teaching and learning the remote work processes.

Conclusion

Working with virtual team members can present its own set of difficulties, especially when taking into account the time zones of different crewmembers and the inherent distractions of being at home or the office while they’re somewhere else.

The first step to managing a distributed team is to accept that there will be some differences in how you manage your team compared to a team that’s all in one place.

Managers need to find ways to account for these differences and find alternative solutions for them.

While the details of communications will depend on the type of work and the particular team members that are hired, there are a few broad guidelines that apply to almost every communication method.

Make sure to always start communications with a clear goal in mind, and make sure communications are on time.

Finally, establish a central communication hub for the distributed team, and use appropriate communication tools that foster collaboration, and project management tools that help foster a sense of community and solidarity among remote workers.

Follow us for more knowledge about remote work

We'll be publishing new articles every week, and new social media content every day. If you enjoyed this article, follow us on Twitter or Linkedin, and stay in the loop. Share our content and drop us a comment there. Let's help more people learn about remote work.